As I groggily write this with ice taped to my knee and Advil coursing through my bloodstream, I cannot but think how happy I am, despite my fatigued haze. I am exhausted but blissful after a hard and successful training weekend. I'm almost relieved to have a full work day because sitting at a desk seems relaxing. I also slept like a baby last night. Who needs Ambien when you do endurance sports?
After a full week of workouts, I took an unintended rest day on Friday. I could feel the fatigue accumulating in my muscles. A glance at the training plan and past experience advised me to take an off day to prepare for the heavy weekend. Begrudgingly, I obliged. I would miss a "perfect week" by a swim, bike and weights but in the big scheme of things, that was nothing compared to the importance of hitting my key workouts for the week and making them quality ones at that. It's taken me only 6 years to know when to back off (and I'm still horrible at it).
Sleeping Indian Ride:
I met a group of friends for a 65-mile ride Saturday morning. The sky was a blindingly blue and the weather was a crisp 62. You can thank me for arranging perfect weather for my ride. I do 'em right, down to the route slips on thick resume paper. Except for completely not recognizing Brian Long (former TCSD president) in his bike clothes. I pulled a, "Hi, I'm Rachel. What's your name?" DOH! Too late, I blushed violently, unable to save myself with a suave, "Ha! Pulling your leg!"
The 10 of us headed out for a relaxed, "flat" ride with some rollers. "Oh, it's only 2500 feet of climbing. Won't be that bad", I had promised. Luckily, most of my friends had ridden with me before and knew not to trust me. 4500 feet later; however, several were taking my name in vain.
I drank in the obscenely gorgeous views of rolling hills, carpeted in emerald green velvet. I've never seen San Diego so green. After last week's seldomly seen torrential downpours, everything was blooming. It felt like spring. The birds certainly seemed to think so as they sung and danced flirtingly to each other. We rode up Lilac, past avocado farms and lemon groves, making our way from Valley Center to Bonsall. Ironically, Lilac smelled like citrus, and Sleeping Indian Rd smelled like lilacs. Lilacs in January? Yes, the air was thick with the heavy scent of lilac. Furry horses dozed in the sunshine as we rode by small, private farms. At least they still sported their winter coats. Phew! A rooster crowed. A dozing dog basked in the sun on his side. I did a double-take to make sure he was still breathing. He was so content, I wasn't sure if he had keeled over or not. As I toiled up Olive Hill Rd (which smelled like eucalyptus and oaks, by the way--what is this: Bizzaro World?), I oohed and aahed over an adoreable mamma and llama and her baby llama, nursing contentedly in the paddock. They were so white and fluffy. I wanted to hug them and love them and squeeze them and call them George. Down the road, I heard a loud screech, and I jumped out of my saddle. In a tucked away farm to my right, dotted with animal topiary and bronze and stone animal statues, including a life-size elephant trumpeting, paraded a proud peacock, displaying his brilliant irridescent green and purple feathers.
We reached my favorite part of the ride, Sleeping Indian, a roller coaster of a road with 15% inclines and equally steep descents. I climbed out of the saddle to avoid toppling over, then crouched into my aero bars at the crest to take advantage of the downhills, cutting the next uphill in half. Ah, Sleeping Indian=steep rollers=fun. Plus, how cool is it to ride on a road with a supernatural name like "Sleeping Indian"? Although I was a little disappointed I didn't actually spot a sleeping indian, or even a dozing one. Maybe next time. I reached the final major descent on Sleeping Indian, and hunkered down into a ball, letting Torch fly. The computer read 44 mph. Not bad, not bad. Last time, Torch reached 48 mph, although a swift sidwind had picked us up and skitted us across the road into the other lane (luckily, no cars were around), making my heart leap into my throat.
As we headed towards our final regroup, a strong headwind hit us. Two Swami's cyclists blew by us. Someone in the group suggested jumping on their wheel. Okay. We sprinted for about a mile before catching them, and even after managing to suck their wheel for another mile, I was totally redlining. Afterall 24 mph is 24 mph; I don't care whose wheel you're sucking. Still, it was fun, even after a member of our group accused me of being a "wheel slut". Actually, I thought that was pretty funny.
We regrouped at the park on the San Luis River Rey bike path. I was giddy with endorphins and slightly hysterical. For some reason, we started talking about the colors of the rainbow. Someone mentioned ROYGBV. I heard "ROYG BV". Which quickly, in my warped state of mind got rearranged to "R OYG BV". Switch around a few letters in "ROYG" and what do you get? A doubled-over Rachel laughing uncontrollably until her stomach hurt.
The tired troops fell back into formation to brave the strong easterly headwinds as we headed back to the Pacific on the bike path. We strategically formed a paceline, taking turns pulling. With only 10 miles to go and feeling fresh and strong after a recovery day (and maybe still stinging a little after the wheel slut comment), I decided to show off. I jumped on the front and began pulling, something I am usually way too meek to do (or just simply not strong enough). I glanced at my computer, striving to maintain an even pace. I checked over my shoulder periodically to monitor the group behind me. Was I pushing hard enough? Too hard? It was an amazing feeling to be able to feel strong enough to lead for a few miles. Then, seemingly as suddenly as the ride had started, it was over, and we were back at the start with me thinking to myself, "That's it?" With my key workout of the week still looming ahead, a 16-mile trail run the following day on the docket, it felt good to end my long ride with a "Bring it!" attitude.
How NOT to do a 16-mile Trail Run:
1. Tweak your IT band early in the week.
2. Go out and party the night before until 3 am.
3. Drink 3 glasses of wine. Chase with 2 glasses of champagne. Proceed to get rip-roaring drunk.
4. Wake up with a flaming hang-over.
(Who IS this person? I NEVER do that!)
After several naps, gingerale, pretzels, and Advil, I succeeded in pulling on my running shoes and fuel belt and headed out the door. It was a little after noon. I grabbed Travis and hit the trails. The ground was squishy and wet, still saturated from all the rain. Travis and I were quickly covered from head to toe in mud. Ah, a muddy buddy run! The first 4 miles felt pretty good, and I settled into a relaxed pace, only thwarted by a couple wrong turns and some extra double-backs, my poor sense of direction and cloudy head being the only remarkable remnant from the prior night's raging. Travis, happy to be out and running this way and that, didn't seem to mind.
As we headed back to complete the first loop (I only run 6 miles with Travis), I did a body check. "Hey, my knee feels great!" Cue knee. Whine! Crunch! Squeal! OUCH! My right knee promptly began burning with searing pain. I could feel a twinge from the knee to my hip. G*d*mit all. Doubts flickered in the back of my head. How was I going to run another 12 miles? For a few seconds, the pain escalated to a 10 (on a 1-10 scale). I hobbled and limped and hopped, coaxing the knee to cooperate. The pain slowly ebbed away, and I was able to jump start the leg back to running again. I toiled up another hill and forgot about the knee. The pain dissipated and I was able to settle back into a pace again. Hmmm. Weird. The ebb and flow of pain on a long run.
Half a mile from the house, where the trail ends and the road begins, Travis and I encountered a pond, flooding the trail. I vaguely remembered that the pond would be flooded here but I had completely underestimated how much. I figured I could dance on some rocks over a few inches of water. Ha! Travis slowly tiptoed into the pond covering the trail. Hmmm. A few feet of water to traverse or 2 more miles to double back and circumvent the obstacle? I tugged off my shoes and socks. The decision was a no brainer. As I plunged into the water, I realized I was getting more than I bargained for. Oh, well. No turning back now, I figured. Afterall, I was already wet. Travis looked at me, apprehensively. I beckoned to him. Cooperatively, he submerged himself deeper into the murky watery depths, following my suit. The water was now up to my hips. Instead of having to traverse a few feet across, it became 36 feet. And instead of a few inches deep, it was about 4 feet of water to wade through. Travis would have to swim, something he had not willingly done before. I called to him, and he got this resolved look in his eyes and paddled after me. I showered him with praise, watching him carefully. He snorted to keep water out of his nose and kept swimming. When he reached the other side, I gave him lots of pets and kisses. He was ecstatic. He leaped out of the pond, shook, and took off running wide circles and spirals around me. I pulled my shoes and socks back on, and we kept on running.
I dropped Travis back at the house, and turned around for 10 more miles. I headed into Del Mar Mesa, where the trails are guaranteed to be exceedingly steep and slippery with millions of rocks. The recent erosion from all the rains didn't help. I danced sideways and up and around rock after rock, trench after trench. I toiled up hill after hill, running when I could, and walking when I must. Surprisingly, the knee didn't complain at all on the uphills. But on the downhills, the knee began to complain at an exponentially higher rate. I began to crave uphills and dread descents, a complete opposite from what is normal for me.
After another creek crossing and scrambling up and down some "hands-and-knees" hills, I reached the road, lined with horse farms. I watched a rider training her horse in a sand arena. A furry pony grazed in the paddock nearby. The mailbox was a great white shark with a gaping mouth full of teeth. A white goat with a long beard gave me a hard look from his pen under a shady oak. But what got me most were the pink flamingos. They were everywhere. A massive collection of pink flamingos as far as the eye could see. Plastic ones, metal ones, ones with springs for legs, one with a fan in its belly, another with a clock, paintings of pink flamingos, little ones, big ones, grazing ones, squacking ones; I've never seen so many pink flamingos in my life. I had to convince myself to keep running. I wanted nothing more than to stop and stare. But I knew if I stopped, it would be hard to get the knee going again.
As I made my way back to the house, the final 2 miles, the knee flared up like never before. I had to stop, doubled over in pain, wincing, and pray for the pain to subside enough for me to make it back. Even walking was excruciating. I smacked it, shook out the leg, and hobbled forward. Limping, galloping, slowly, I was able to jump start the leg back into a gentle jog each time. Somehow, I made it home and into the ice bath. I'm getting a massage today. I going to have to be diligent about stretching and the foam roller. I have to get this IT band thing under control.
Another week's workouts completed. In the bag. If I can just get the IT band in check, I'm on my way.